Genre: Action Developer: Extended Play Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1992
Chakan is a game that brings back lots of fond memories for me as a kid. My close friends at the time had a Genesis with several of the better games at the time, and Chakan was one of them. I’ll never forget those nights where I stayed over there playing greats like ToeJam & Earl, Sonic 2, Altered Beast, and Chakan. While finishing the game was out of our reach, it never stopped up from enjoying its unique platforming and dark and moody atmosphere. Later on they ended up trading their Genesis to me and I still played Chakan wowing more friends with it. Eventually, I sold it off since I never could get anywhere in it.
I always remembered my times with that game. I grew quite frustrated with its difficulty and never wanted to go back to it when I started collecting Genesis games. Finally after so many years, I knew it was time to buy another copy and brave this game’s treacherous waters and try to complete it. While I still can’t say I’ve claimed victory over this sinister adventure, I’ve made it through more than 75% of the way and have had the chance to experience the later levels and see it for what it is – a really well done title that more than does justice to the dark and grim comics off of which it’s based.
Well, here it is fellow gamers. I am going to attempt to truthfully review one of the Sega Genesis’ more evilly difficult but memorable games that I’ve played.
I’m not going to go into the story line in this review, but I will say that it is quite well done for a series of dark and gothic comic books. You take the role of Chakan, a man who can’t be killed and only feels the pain his battle wounds. Sega did a good job of implementing the story into the game. Chakan has infinite lives and restarts at the portal area when he runs out of energy. I don’t think that infinite lives will make things easy for a moment because the game is composed of twenty-four long levels and gets torturously hard in the later stages.
I guess the first thing I can say about the gameplay is that Sega went to great lengths to make it as deep, involving, and as original as possible, and they succeeded. Chakan can attack in eight directions, he can roll across the ground which is far faster than walking, and he can double jump and do a spin slash in midair which is also quite effective. Each stage of the first four worlds have an extra weapon that can be picked up and is required to progress in the game.
The best part of play may be in the alchemy. There are a total of four different colors of potions, and you can hold four of each color. There are about a total of fifteen spells that can be made in the menu. You get everything from elemental ranged attacks to healing to instant enemy kills, and many more. It adds some pretty deep game play and variety to an already great game.
Each world has an introduction from Chakan where he tells about the great evil he sets off to destroy, and then you enter the level. The first set of worlds are the terrestrial worlds consisting of fire, sky, earth, and water, and each has three parts and a boss at the end. There is a lot of clever platforming to be done, especially in the fire world where you have to hang on hooks and swing and jump to higher ones through a stage. It’s difficult to finish, but it’s executed quite well.
Graphically, these worlds are all pretty beautiful to look at, and with the help of the stellar soundtrack they all do an exceptional job of depicting a dark, morbid, and creepy atmosphere. This may actually be one of the game’s greatest strengths. Each world does a perfect job of standing out and not being remotely similar to the last. The music is incredible to say the least, and each one makes great use of the sound chip and sounds like it’s made specifically for the Genesis. For example, I still can’t get the terrestrial sky music out of my head. Additionally, the earth and fire worlds depict a great sense of creepiness and the water world gives a great sense of solitude and loneliness. The sound effects are also incredible, Chakan gives off a demonic moan when he gets hurt, and the sound of an enemy dying is very eerie, helping to set the atmosphere. Every other sound effect also sounds equally creepy and never disappoints.
Once you are able to finish the first four worlds you have to face four new ones on the elemental plane. The best way to describe them is by saying that they’re extreme renditions the second time around. Fire becomes the lava world, you have to fly through the sky world on a creature, water becomes ice, and earth becomes mud. I really felt a sense of awesomeness when I finally made it to these worlds since it’s no easy task to get that far.
I’ve been pointing out so much good but have no choice to point out some low points. To start, the music in the first four worlds is stellar, but once you get to the elemental worlds the music isn’t bad though it’s nowhere near the caliber of the earlier stages. My second issue is with the bosses, the majority of which are painfully easy. They will all seem like they are impossible to defeat until you’ll figure out a pitifully easy pattern and will never get hurt. Unfortunately, that’s the only way to defeat most of them. Later in the elemental stages, the bosses can take forever to kill, and you have to worry about the time running out. The elemental water boss can take around eight minutes alone to kill.
My biggest complaint in the game may be with the overall difficulty of the game. The first four worlds are very manageable with some practice, but later worlds are just endless trial and error, and a majority of the stages become nothing but blind platform jumping and will result in uncountable deaths (thankfully you have unlimited lives). The elemental sky stage is the worst stage possible since you have to ride a flying demon, and anything, including hitting a ceiling, will cause you to fall off, often causing you to fall to the beginning of the stage. It was truly a test of my patience to get through those stages. On top of that, it was the most annoying and my least favorite music in the whole game. If you manage to finish all of the eight worlds and sit through the faux credits then you can fight quite possibly the hardest last boss ever, where one hit will kill you and you only have one chance to succeed.
Despite its flaws, Chakan is still an incredible game, and there was nothing remotely like it on the Genesis at the time. As I stated earlier, it does a great job of bringing the dark and gruesome source material. It’s overly hard an unfair at times and requires patience that not every gamer will be able to muster. Chakan is exceptionally long, racking up at roughly three to four hours from start to finish but thankfully there’s a way to skip the first four worlds from the beginning by obtaining a portal spell and using it on a small platform in the bottom right area of the portal plane so you can effectively continue at about the halfway point of the game. Once I found that trick out it alleviated some of my animosity towards its length.
Chakan is a game that I have to be in the mood to play since it’s so daunting, but my memories of it as a kid are priceless, so the game is one of my favorites on the Genesis. However, it’s not one I can just pick up and play whenever I feel like it, and I’d imagine most of you would feel the same. Still, I strongly recommend checking it out at least for the music alone.
SCORE: 7 out of 10